Everything in our power

Mrs May says all the right things: She acknowledges the terror, the fact that people lost everything in the Grenfell fire, that £5 million will be made available to help with immediate needs, that it will get to the people who really need it, and regarding other 1970’s tower blocks – “We will do everything in our power to make sure these buildings are safe”. That said, the overwhelming message from the media is of the authorities failing to take notice, of both Sadiq Khan and the Prime minister being heckled in public. In the middle of this, Mr Corbyn is seen hugging people, giving the human touch that is so badly needed.

The BBC talks about misreading the “national mood”. Certainly, a mood has developed as surely as it did in the days after Diana’s death but we must be careful that this is not something exploited by the press.

It is relatively easy to say the right thing. In a media age, it is important to be seen doing the right thing. It is no good being told by others that the PM is “distraught” about the fire. The election is over and this is not a time to be playing for votes- what we need in times of crisis is the political machine to move seamlessly to support the individuals hurt and to be shown to do so. People need to feel reassured, not simply told that they are reassured. Mr Portillo did a brief interview criticising the PM because “she didn’t use her humanity. She met the emergency service, a good thing to do no doubt…” As Michael Portillo knows, there is more fluidity between people of differing parties in Westminster that we can possibly guess. He has famously got a good relationship with Diane Abbott, going back years before they share a tv sofa. What he and others should be calling for, at this time, is a more co-ordinated approach across the political divisions. There is a need for displays of humanity as well as the raw stuff of making money and services available to victims and getting answers. All of this is needed but mostly, we need a display of unity. We need an uplifting massage of calm, not a continued and subversive election campaign and certainly not an underhand leadership campaign.

As in Machester, it falls to the Queen once again, who does the job of leading the Nation impeccably.

Grenfell aftermathTIM

 

 

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Three Last Things

Three issues have dominated this week. The first is the vote in the House of Lords that frankly at this stage comes across as self-indulgent and posturing, and the second is the continued failure of Mr Corbyn. I think the two things are linked. It is, of course, Corbyn who should have questioned whether the Government’s current approach to Brexit is “unreal and optimistic”, but it fell to Sir John Major to make that point and in those words. In both cases, of the Lords and Corbyn, there is a manifestation of ideology over realism, and this is not good for the way we are seen in Europe. At  a time when we need to be united and strong, we look divided and weak. That brings me to the third point which is “Indy 2” and Nicola Sturgeon’s flirtation with yet another referendum.

A change is always an opportunity for a fresh start. I wish more had been achieved between Mrs May and Nicola Sturgeon at the beginning of Mrs May’s premiership. But when article 50 is triggered that is also a significant change and a time once again to mend fences and move forward. I hope we are ready for that and Mrs May has shown with her visit to the US that she is ready to bite the bullet! Certainly, there is an opportunity to think of flexibility in the way Brexit is implemented across the UK and Nicola Sturgeon’s recommendations should perhaps be taken seriously. At the same time, her threats to break up the Kingdom are foolish because she cheapens what amounts to a solution by tying it too strongly to the tails of her Independence kite.

nicola sturgeon

As for the EU citizenship thing-

For what it is worth, I think we should have offered unilateral residency to all EU citizens currently in the UK and it should not have been dependent on what Mrs Merkel agreed or thought. The Lords agrees with me, now, though my argument has actually hardly been mentioned- specifically I have argued that granting citizenship now effectively offers no more than is already on the table, but it signals so much more and it provides security. It is the right thing to do. Because, by the time Brexit is negotiated and implemented, almost all those here on the date of the referendum would have qualified anyway for British residency, assuming they have collected the relevant paperwork. I also think, incidentally, such an offer would have established a claim to the moral high-ground, would have been a show of goodwill at a time when there is already and going to be a good deal of nastiness and would have put pressure on Brussels to match our goodwill removing this issue from the negotiations. We could not be blamed for using people as leverage, and we could have got on with the important issues of how we will do trade and politics together. There are better things to negotiate than this issue of citizenship and we need all the goodwill we can muster to get the best deal. More to the point, while I am mindful of the 900,000 Brits abroad, the fact remains that they are spread over diverse countries each with its own naturalisation processes. The EU does not have a “one-size fits all” approach to granting citizenship. For example, in Greece, citizenship might well come packaged with demands for military conscription. We would have done well to have set the terms for this debate, but we missed that opportunity. Whatever the Lords recommend at this stage is all a bit late and it looks shabby. If this offer was to have been on the table at all, to be effective, it needed to have been divorced from Mrs May’s triggering of article 50.

Bluntly, whether an undertaking by Britain now to grant unilateral citizenship to 3 million EU residents when or just after we trigger article 50, amounts to much the same thing and Theresa May is right: At this stage, it must become part of the package of Article 50 negotiations, because that is how it will now be perceived. We missed the boat. The ideologues were too late and quite simply, in pressing the issue at this stage, they have weakened the argument.

There is a time for action, and that time passed a while ago!

So, while I support the idea, that is what it should remain. A great idea, and one that should indeed have been enacted nearly 6 months’ ago. But it is too late now.

corbyn-tim

Mr Corbyn suffers from the same nonsense. He does not know when to speak and when to shut up. Of course, he should have been more vigorous in leading his party against Brexit. He was not. And as a follow-on, of course, he should not have whipped the same MPs who followed his pathetic lead in arguing to Remain into now supporting for the Brexit bill. It is not that his support of the bill or his lack of support would have seriously damaged its passing through the chamber, anyway, but his job is to challenge the government to present the best possible case, to make our legislation more robust. Instead, he thinks he imagines he is still on some sort of activist campaign. Mr Corbyn seems to have given up his effective role in the commons- if he cannot govern, maybe he thinks, and even he must recognise that he will never be Prime Minister, then he might have concluded that it is not really worth the effort at all. He is wrong and he is arrogant: he thinks there is something noble about the idea of contra mundum, but this King Canute approach to politics is simply stupid. Politics is about getting things done- governing the Polis, the city. It is entirely practical. It is not the slogans of the banners of protest that matter- it is the quality of the debate that Corbyn leads that dictates the way policies are defined- and he has long-since abandoned that responsibility. A shame because it is actually the one job he might have done well. As a result, other peoples and groups, whether they be the Ken Clarke’s, (Wonderland!) the Judges or the Lords have taken on the job Corbyn demonstrates he is incapable of doing- the debate on Brexit has shifted, therefore, to an unsightly squabble with the House of Lords. It is unnecessary. Good debate is about raising the issues that matter before they hit us. Today, when we should be controlling the Brexit issue, instead, because of Corbyn’s arrogance, we are increasingly reacting to events as they hit us. If the debate does not take place in the proper forum, it moves elsewhere. Paul Drechsler, the President of the CBI who should have been on board the Brexit bus, was left to observe recently that he feared the PM would open “a Pandora’s Box of economic consequences.” There is another vote coming that many Lords think is more important than the issue of the EU Citizens here (and note the numbers 3 million to 900,000: in terms of parity, it simply does not add up, but there we are! This is about principle not some sort of straight-forward tit-for-tat) — that parliament should be given the chance to veto whatever is agreed by the negotiating teams, so once again all a bit late, and why would anyone want to enter negotiations with the fear that everything will be rejected anyway- not by one of the 27 countries in the EU but by our own parliament! It is madness. But once again it confirms that because Corbyn has failed to do his duty, others, including two of our recent Prime ministers feel they must take over and do it. They are all playing catch-up, they are washing our dirty-linen in public and it is all too undignified. The man responsible for this mess is Mr Corbyn- he is not only messing up the Labour party- he is seriously damaging our Government and our reputation at a time when we need to pull together.

A great Victory

The by-Election result last night is not only a resounding success for and endorsement of Theresa May, but it is also a brilliant kick in the pants for the appalling Nuttall and the whimpering leadership offered by Corbyn. While Labour beat UKIP in Stoke, the votes were down and in fact only the Liberal party increased its overall share by any significant amount (Conservatives up by nearly 2%, as was UKIP, but labour down by 2% as were the Greens). In Copeland, however, a real turn-around (UkIp down by 9%, Labour down by 5% and Conservatives up by nearly 9%) and the first time in years that a sitting Government (7 years in) has taken a seat from the opposition. I was delighted to see Prof Green among the crowds- if rap is the voice of youth, he is in the right place at the right time. And Theresa May was quite right, just a few minutes ago to visit the seat to personally congratulate Trudy Harrison. Mrs May said,

“Trudy isn’t just somebody who talks about things, she actually rolls up her sleeves and gets things done.”

Or as Mrs Thatcher would have said, “Simply Rejoice!” It is time to see the Conservative party as the party that will deliver social reform. Even in a traditionally safe seat, the traditional labour voters know that Labour can no longer be trusted to deliver!

trudy-harrison-by-tim

The Immanent Gove

Michael Gove today penned a piece in the Times suggesting that he had access to Mrs May’s latest thoughts, indeed the very words she might utter in only a matter of days.Quite apart from the irritation of finding senior politicians jumping on the bandwagon of false news, his piece simply repeats arguments that were surely sorted out at about 8am on 24th June.

gove

I think much of what he thinks the PM will say will remain wishful thinking, but it is still deeply mistaken and misleading.

I think Mr Gove’s greatest mistake lies in a misunderstanding of what it means to lead the country, something he aspired to do and that Mrs May is now doing. Mr Gove thinks that what matters is “the truth”, but truth is a relative and constantly changing concept. What matters instead is “responsibility”, or “trust”. I think this is a single concept though expressed in two words. For it is not possible to have one without the other. It is something Mr Gove failed to earn and, moreover, a concept that is much bigger than the referendum and certainly bigger than Brexit. It is about doing the right thing at the right time and with confidence. Today, when Brexit is presented, a number of politicians, and certainly Mr Gove, seem to abandon not only reality and rational thought but also a belief in the primacy of Parliament for naive demagogy as if they are still not sure they won, and have to rehash the same arguments over and over again.

Put bluntly, has Mr Corbyn not been a sufficient warning to you?

Mr Gove sets the tune of his piece by referring to Ronald Reagan and Mrs Thatcher. Reagan’s plan for the cold war- “Simple — we win; they lose.” But that is not quite how it panned out, was it! Let’s look back a little further:

While France and America embraced revolution, Britain quietly changed from one leader to another. The “glorious revolution” may not be quite all it was cracked up to be, but it demonstrates a way of behaving that Mr Gove absolutely forgets. Revolutions, if pursued relentlessly, are out for blood and that has not been the British way. We want to forge a quiet rethinking of the status quo, and if possible, seemlessly merge from one form of rule to another, maybe, if absolutely necessary with a mild embellishment to the union flag.

Mrs May is quite right in repeating her mantra that “Brexit means Brexit” just as she is quite right in being tight-lipped about exactly how that will play out. Even if she triggers the process in a month, we still must wait two years for that act to play out, and during that time, much of the Europe we know today will have changed beyond recognition. Catalonia lingers, Le Pen lies in the penumbra of perceptual power and Germany smoulders with discontent to say nothing of Greece, badgered and badgered until it is made to feel like a poodle puddled in the Aegean. The only thing that we can be certain about is the Responsibility Mrs May has been given as our leader and the trust we place in her.

What I find most disturbing is the claim that we know what “the electors wanted” when they voted for Brexit. The fact is, we can never know just as we can never know what they wanted when they voted for Mr Corbyn. All we have is the result which in and of itself says nothing about immigration, control of borders, the single market, hard or soft Brexit. It is simply a mandate for leaving the current arrangement, a recognition that the EU as it stands is failing. A referendum is not a result in itself – it needs interpreting and circumstances will change. That is inevitable.

Also, though I hesitate to point this out, the Brexit vote was far from uniform throughout the country and a clever Brexit will allow for, and placate the 48% who voted to retain our place in Europe.

But I hope we are fast approaching the day when we will stop hearing what Politicians think the electors voted for. No one really knows. Equally the obsession with anticipating the way we leave Europe needs to stop. We need to leave the negotiating team to do its job.

The obsession, drummed up in part by people like Mr Gove and Mr Farage, about how we leave in fact allows Brussels to avoid the full force of the blow of that Referendum decision. Indeed, this obsession gives a platform to Mr Junker, who rather than falling on his sword as one of the architects of modern Brussels, can join Gove and Farage and pontificate about HOW we should be going. What folly for Junker to be mocking Milord, when his own house is burning down.

Mr Gove gave a tv interview a few weeks ago and demonstrated what a thoughtful, centred man he really is. I do not understand, therefore, why he needs to play to the gallery like this when what we really need is his keen intellect and analytic support at the centre of Government. What Mrs May does not yet say is that any form of Brexit means a re-ordering of Europe because she knows the European project is bigger than the EU. Because the future of Europe and the role it will play beside us is as much our concern as the manner in which Britain will be defined two years’ hence.

John Donne writes,

donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:

Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

The Garage is empty

Just as the Prime Minister promises a new future, the past turns up like a soiled doily, that simply refuses to flush away.

Farage returns as a tired revamp of Dracula AD 72, proving as last time that there is no trusting this man whether he promises to resign or not. Is this “Farage the sequel”,”Farage returns”, “Farage 3” or “Farage forever”? No, after Brighton, this is a man whose tag is, “just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water”! And the Farage mouth is again snapping at the anchorman. With this one difference- this is Farage without teeth. He sums up, as ever, the fate of his party.

The toothless, wizened, tired spectre of Farage. The empty shall of a wide-mouthed man. The garage with the door ajar and the sprightly jag gone.

headlights

For me, one of the entertaining aspects of the story is to see Paul Oakden, a man I knew as Farage’s henchman, lording it over the media as the UKIP chairman, desperate to square the circle that is Diane James. Oakden, once physically a pale reflection of Paul Nuttall, has embraced stubble above and below the hairline but he remains the same Oakden. What a long way he has come in such a short time! Only just 18 months ago, he was the man delegated to silence me. He was the man making promises on behalf of his leader that neither he nor Farage have so far honoured. I have long since given up hope that either will keep their word, and I fear I am not the only one.

Has no one told Farage about the boy who cried wolf? Resignation is a card you can play once. It is not a game of snap!

Thank God, then for Boris, who may not now lead the Conservatives, but who certainly put a spoke in the UKIP wheel and left it immobilised. It is a bike with a broken wheel, and today, without a viable saddle. Today, we see one more tumble in the slow-motion crash that has been Boris’s masterstroke! Boris took on the mantle of Farage: He might have feared it was poisoned and that like some Herculean hero, he would go down fighting, but he took that risk and went down in style, eclipsing Farage in every way. I think history will be kind to Boris, because after the current aborted resurrection, Farage, barely human, even after exposing himself in Brighton, leads a pitiful ghost of a party, with little aim, precious value and a heightened reputation for thuggishness and deceit at the highest level.

I joined UKIP because I feared a party led by Farage was one of the biggest dangers to the UK today and I could not sit idly by. I also felt that some of its aims were laudable enough, particularly its fondness for Grammar schools, though I have always been less comfortable with Brexit itself, but the die is now cast. Today, however, we celebrate the collapse of the party that set Brexit in motion. Who wants to lead this mess? Certainly not Diane James. And it is clear the party does not want Suzanne Evans, dumped unceremoniously last year; Stephen Woolfe was tricked out of the ballot only this year and the only sitting MP, a man of great principle, despite his ditching the party that made him electable in the first place, Douglas Carswell is himself as itchy as poisoned ivy. At their conference, fellow UKIPpers kept a safe distance even when he promised loyalty to the new leader. That did not last long! It is only when everyone doubts your allegiance that anyone ever expects you to pledge it.

So, while I might bemoan the loss of her majesty’s loyal opposition in the nonsense peddled by Mr Corbyn and his cronies, there is only one word that comes to mind about UKIP and it is Thatcher’s: “Rejoice!“ Simply rejoice!